Anti-Politics: A Collection of Agorist Essays
© 2021 ed. Sal Mayweather
If you’re still waiting for your masters for permission to live after nearly two years of “two weeks to flatten the curve”, don’t bother reading further. This isn’t your kind of book, and it won’t be your kind of review. Sal Mayweather is principally writing to political libertarians, those who believe in using existing parties, particularly the Libertarian Party, to effect positive change (reduced government, an end to state bullying, interventionism, etc). He marshals a host of allies to bid his reader — stop. It’s pointless. Any energy poured into the existing system is energy lost, energy that could have been used to subvert the system and create real change, instead. Mayweather, as host of the Agorist Podcast, contributes some of his own writings here, and leans heavily on Samuel E. Konkin III, whose theories on agorism and countereconomics organized anti-political thought in the 1960s, but his contributors include writers as diverse as Emma Goldman, Henry David Thoreau, and Gandhi. The ultimate lesson: don’t vote, do.
Although this agorist/voluntaryist/ant-political view has been making regular orbits in my thinking since at least 2019, it took the last year and a half of collective insanity for my remnant of faith in civil society to be destroyed completely. The world has taken a dark turn, somehow becoming infinitely less humane than it already was, a turn initiated by governments but continually fueled by the masses’ docility. Napoleon said that religion was excellent stuff for keeping common folk quiet, but politics is even better — politics keeps people agitated against one another, and the ritual of voting makes them think they’re going to change things even as the state goes its own way regardless. No election in the history of American elections has reversed the growth of government; at times it has slowed, and at times its energy has been been ineptly used, but by and large it grows.
The issue is not that the power of the government is being used incorrectly, Mayweather and other authors write; the issue is that such power exists. Even if someone wants it for good reasons, it will still corrupt them; they mean to be good masters, but they mean to be masters. It is power over others, the will to dominate others, that is the issue, and libertarians and anarchists cannot be taken seriously for wanting to destroy the devil with the devil’s own tools. Beyond arguing that seeking power is immoral in principle, and self-defeating in practice, Mayweather and others also point to how much more effective countereconomics, direct action, civil disobedience, and the like are. Even against the Nazis, civil disobedience was proven to work, as evidenced by the Rosenstrasse triumph, in which a mass protest of German wives forced Hitler and Goebbels to release the wives’ Jewish husbands from a deportment staging area — saving their lives. Oppressive states always generate a counter-economy through their abuses: in Iran, for instance, media that is officially banned once passed from hand to hand via cassette tapes; now it moves through USB drives. In our modern time, Mayweather asks, who broke the hotel and taxi monopolies — was it voting, or was it the free actions of creative visionaries who gave consumers options (AirBnB, Uber, Lyft, etc) around the law-cushioned corporations? What prompted the state to finally begin yielding on the drug war? Was it lobbyists, or widespread disobedience? Hope lies in action, not following the state’s script.
These are not new ideas; Mayweather opens with an Enlightenment-era summary condemnation of the state that’s worth reading just for its language, and moves to our present age through authors like Henry David Thoreau, Emma Goldman, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. I was particularly please to see Gandhi, for its was his commitment to nonviolence that made me recognize that coercion is immoral even when conducted by the government. Although the book is chiefly an argument against political participation, it also presents occasional ideas for building a counter-economy — working under the table, dropping out of the money economy by becoming more self-sufficient, shifting to cryptocurrency, etc. In 2021, there’s never been a better time to become ungovernable.
I Must Speak Out: The Best of The Voluntaryist, ed. Carl Watner
Countereconomics: From the Back Alleys to the Stars, Samuel E. Konkin III
Alongside Night, J. Neil Schulman
VONU: A Strategy for Self-Liberation, Shane Ratcliff
#agora, Anonymous. An agorist novel that mixes Konkin’s counter-econ thought with VONU ideas.